In the world of viticulture, not all soil types are created equal—and although some are deemed easier to cultivate than others, they’re not always a walk in the park for those who farm them.
While loam-based soils are the backbone to some of the most fertile vineyards on the planet, knowing how to farm them—and above all, prune their vines—is key.
Sadie Drury, a Walla Walla Valley-based vineyard manager who manages over 300 acres of land in the Pacific Northwest, describes loam as a mix of sand, silt and clay.
“Loam soils generally have decent water holding capacity but are often well-draining, especially series [or types of soils] with less clay content,” she says, and notes that loam is known for being highly fertile and relatively easy to farm.
However, easy doesn’t always mean simple. Dan O’Brien, founder and winemaker of Gail Wines, notes that vines cultivated in loam soils often require a good amount of attention. “Prune, prune, prune,” he says. “Otherwise, your fruit will lack complexity.”
When farmed at lower yields, loam soils can add richness and density to wines’ texture, O’Brien says.
Loam has a high capacity for water retention, but paying attention to productivity is crucial, says Thomas Savre, winemaker at Lingua Franca. “If fertility is too high, then excess vigor can become detrimental to a wine’s quality,” he says.